BananaSlug – Internet Toy

I use search engines a lot and unavoidably, of course, Google. Despite all its strengths, I have previously mentioned a favored alternate, Shmoogle, which randomly mixes up the results of a typical Google search. Sometimes you find just the right reference that otherwise might have been buried on page 10 of a normal search.

Google must hate it, because it messes up their finely calibrated mix of utility and commerce. In fact, Shmoogle has started to become popular enough that Google has now taken to occasionally blocking it when the traffic gets heavy.

Banana SlugBut just the other day I came across a new Internet toy, BananaSlug. New to me, since this unusual search engine has been around since 2005 or so.

What does it do? The website explains it this way:

With normal Google searching, there are many web pages that you may never have a chance to see. So BananaSlug throws in a random word from a category of your choice. This results in pages you probably overlooked. They all have your search term in them, but the added twist gives you something new every time!

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a primitive instinct at play on the Internet, with a fascination that holds sway over many of us, especially men. It’s a 21st Century, electronic version of hunting and gathering. Since first hanging out around smoky campfires in our bison (or muskox or wolf) robes, men have been obsessed with the hunting and the searching and the finding and taking of those necessary resources that the wilderness held for them. For our ancient forebears, it must have felt during good times like a universe of generous gods holding out intoxicating varieties of sustenance. The ageless hunt has just gone more cerebral and abstractly gratifying in this age of Blackberries, and Leopard operating systems, camped out as we are in the wilds of the information age.

(Of course this has occurred to others as well… )

BananaSlug calls itself a “long-tail” search engine, which means it tries to get at all those references that aren’t necessarily the most popular.

It does this by adding an extra word that it will assign randomly or that you may choose from a variety of categories such as Animals, Archetypes, Emotions, Great Ideas or Themes from Shakespeare. It will only give you 10 results each time, but it is easy to repeat (although with a different random word being assigned).

(Adding an extra word from Shakespeare for a search is quite topical for me, since last week my wife and I went to a Shakespeare play for the first time ever here in Vancouver. It was the rarely performed Coriolanus, which is not considered one of his major works but was still an interesting look at Shakespeare’s take on politics.  “Nature teaches beasts to know their friends” and “What’s the matter, you dissentious rogues, that, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion, make yourself scabs?”)

So let’s do a variety of searches for the heck of it using BananaSlug and see if items of interest rear up. Choosing the Themes from Shakespeare category for my first attempt, let’s try “watercolor technique OR tip.” The randomly assigned seed word was “guidance.”

One useful reference that didn’t come up on the first page of a regular Google search was that of an article on the watercolor technique of American George Grosz. I learned: “In his small book on watercolor technique, Adolf Dehn wrote that Grosz’s “favorite five-color palette is Prussian blue, alizarin deep red, cadmium yellow light, English red, [and] yellow ochre light. Emerald green can be added as a sixth color, which he sometimes employed.” Grosz also experimented with adding egg white to his watercolors.

Let’s try something else: “obscure OR forgotten rock music song“. Taking our random word from the category Archetypes, we get “god” as the random word. That’s a good one. The winner from that search which didn’t come up at Google on the top was 50 (Mostly) Obscure Songs You Should Listen To (With Links) . There’s a lot of bands there I’ve never heard of, with more hip hop and rap among the list than I’d normally tolerate. But there’s some intriguing mentions like the band Dogs Die in Hot Cars with their song, “Godhopping,” and Insane Clown Posse with “Nothing’s Left.”

Moving on, let’s try “board game” with a random throw in from Great Ideas of “religion.” Here’s an interesting link from USA Today of all places, “‘Playing God’ satirizes religious violence.”

playinggodsx-largePlaying Gods: The Board Game of Divine Domination bills itself as “the world’s first satirical board game of religious warfare.”

The player can choose from Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Mohammed or make an all-powerful being themselves such as Oprah, Elvis, a stein of Beer, Satan, or the Almighty Dollar. The game entails a lot of death and destruction aimed at followers of gods other than yours.

A professor of religion opined that the big chain stores would likely not be carrying the game .

As a last effort let’s try “write fiction OR novel OR creative” with the random word “callous” thrown in from the Emotion category. This turned up one interesting link to letters to about the article there, “Why Can’t A Woman Write the Great American Novel.” Several letter writers noted that there’ve been a number of writers of that calibre, such as Willa Cather and Harper Lee. An interesting article and discussion around that provocative, indeed callous, query.

So there you have it: BananaSlug, a toy, a plaything for idly rowing about the information ocean, so that you may occasionally pause, set down the oars, and trail your hand.


Explore posts in the same categories: Art, Culture, Games, Internet, Writing

6 Comments on “BananaSlug – Internet Toy”

  1. Rick Matz Says:

    These search engines are a great novelty. Thanks.

  2. fencer Says:

    Hi Rick,

    My pleasure to introduce, if you haven’t come across them before…


  3. bloglily Says:

    How could I not have known about this? Obviously, when you search for “cool search engine” in google all you get is.. well.. google. But if you searched for it on banana slug, it would throw in the random word “slug” and you’d come up with this cool search engine. Thanks for finding this!

  4. fencer Says:

    Hey Lily,

    And then if it throws in “banana”… anyway, it’s fun to play with.


  5. Margaret Diehl Says:

    I do the same thing when I can’t remember the phrase I’m trying to source so I just kind of throw random words on google, get lots of interesting stuff which often takes my writing in a new direction. Google has been a toy for me from the beginning.

  6. fencer Says:

    Hi Margaret,

    Thanks for your comment…

    Search engines are addictive!


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